Adad Hannah: The Raft of the Medusa (PPE): 2009-2020

25 July - 18 September 2020


"In May 2020 I was asked to do an Instagram takeover of @galeriepfoac. As part of that process I went looking for "making-of" images from some older projects. During that process I came across a set of images produced in May 2009 that I had long forgotten about.


Through discussions with Gus we pieced together that it was a response to the H1N1 Pandemic in 2009.

 Several years after SARs killed 774 people around the world, including 44 Canadians in 2002-2003, a new flu strain H1N1 (also known as the swine flu) struck in 2009-2010, killing between 150,000 to 500,000 people worldwide including 428 in Canada. On April 29th, 2009 the WHO increased the alert level to phase 5, indicating widespread human infection and an imminent pandemic. When I arrived in 100 Mile House in late April H1N1 was on the minds of Canadians so we decided to shoot a version of The Raft of the Medusa with everyone dressed in personal protective equipment (PPE). By the time I had returned to Montreal and sorted through the images the pandemic had subsided and the images were archived.

Looking at these images in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic creates an uncanny feeling. Gericault's raft, a rudderless vessel cut loose by those in charge and left to drift aimlessly, is once again a potent symbol of inept leadership and the human toll it takes." - Adad Hannah, July 2020


One was a version of The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19) strewn with skateboards and a bicycle with the models wearing hoodies, baggy pants, baseball caps, and sunglasses. The idea here was easy to work out, this was The Raft of the Medusa with contemporary street clothes - a colourful mix of young people from 2009 inhabiting the historical space of Gericault's seminal work.


The other images were harder to decode, in this group the models are wearing Tyvek protective suits, blue nitrile gloves, and white masks with yellow elastics. I vaguely remembered seeing these images in 2009 when I shot the project in 100 Mile House, a town in northern British Columbia, but I could not remember why we shot a version with the models wearing PPE (personal protective equipment). In order to answer this question I got in touch with Gus Horn, a rancher and activist from 100 Mile House who had initially brought me to his town to restage The Raft of the Medusa.